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I instantly loved the open, airy feel of Plum Bistro. Not only is the front wall encased with picture windows looking out on the street, but Plum also shares a common area with a restaurant next door, and so their second wall of windows faces out into the hallway and toward the other space. An open bar area closes off the third "wall," behind which is the kitchen. Add tall ceilings and good lighting to the mix and you have a chic, stylish, and comforting atmosphere.
Our first bite of Plum Bistro was the Cajun Mac 'n' Yease appetizer, and I was blown away. I've tried a plethora of vegan mac-n-cheeses, in search of the perfect texture and flavor, and this was the best I've ever had. I've never had one with the same thick and creamy texture, highlighted by a trip to the broiler to lightly brown the top of the macaroni. I personally didn't pick up on much of a cajun vibe, but I felt like the spice level was exactly perfect.
To balance the richness of the mac 'n' yease, our server suggested we try the smoky kale appetizer. It has tiny chunks of almonds and smoked tofu, but the most prevalent flavor is the heavily roasted garlic. If you don't overcook it, you can rarely go wrong in giving me a kale dish, so I thought it was great. Probably the cutest thing about it was the squat mason jar they used to serve the appetizer.
My husband and I basically always split our meal, so we set about picking our entrees together. This was no easy task because everything looked so good, but we opted for one of their homemade pasta dishes and a seitan steak.
We picked a red lentil filled ravioli that was adorned with a few slices of grilled tempeh, roasted beets, and resting atop an apple wine sauce. The dish had two huge green raviolis, which I assume must be spinach-flavored pasta. I love how red lentils fall apart when cooked, and I knew they'd make a really nice stuffing for ravioli. I only wish the filling itself would have been taken closer to the edges of the ravioli itself because the first few bites into the dish I still hadn't made it to the filling.
Though drawn to the jerk pomegranate seitan steak because of a great experience with jerk seitan at Blossoming Lotus in Portland, we followed the server's suggestion not to overlook the pear seitan steak with mushroom demi-glace, mashed yams, and rosemary pears.
The seitan steak itself had amazing texture, which always shocks me since I have a lot of trouble making homemade seitan. It truly looked and cut like a steak. In my opinion, the knockouts were the mushroom demi-glace and the rosemary pears.
My husband loves ice cream cookie sandwiches, so he couldn't resist a mocha cookie with coffee ice cream. He loved it. I thought it was good but because the cookie was hard, it was difficult to eat it with a fork. The ice cream was delicious.
When the restaurant starts to fill up, a few of the tables end up being very close together, so much so that you can hear everything the people next to you are whispering to each other. In some cities I've come to expect tight quarters in restaurants, but Plum Bistro's space is actually pretty large and most of the tables don't butt up against one another. I also might not have noticed except that the guy next to us was obviously not vegan and was only going to the restaurant for his girlfriend, so he ended up giving the restaurant a lot of backhanded compliments like, "it's actually pretty good," and "it's obviously not meat, but it tastes good."
I highly recommend Plum Bistro Seattle for an elegant and delicious dining experience.
The day we were leaving, we took advantage of Seattle's simple bus system to pick up sandwiches from Plum Cafe for our plane ride home.
The cafe is a completely different environment from the bistro, so it truly is its own restaurant. It's a tiny space with 4-5 pub style tables, and you order at the counter and wait for your order to arrive. I loved their notice on the menu to expect to wait about 15 minutes because "good food takes time."
As we were waiting I spied a very suspicious looking bowl amongst the other prepared food behind the counter. When we found out it was the mac 'n' yease that we both loved so much from our Plum Bistro dinner, I freaked out. They sell it by the half pound at a lower price point than at the sit down restaurant, which makes sense. We picked up a pound of it and it survived the plane ride and my repeated pecking at it. If we lived closer, I'd come by all the time to get some and try to replicate the recipe.
Speaking of which, the Plum restaurants have a cookbook coming out in the spring of 2013 called Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle's Plum Bistro, but evidently the mac 'n' yease recipe is so secret that it won't be included in the cookbook. Huge bummer for those of us who can only get it on vacation.
For lunch, we had a sandwich and a burger, and then we bundled up two of the wraps to eat on the plane for dinner.
My husband loves anything resembling the lunchmeat of his Jewish youth, so he went straight for the Strami on Rye. They used a nice, light rye bread and stuffed it with lettuce, tomato, onion, vegan mozzarella, and their seasoned tofu.
I had the Venice Beach, which had baked tofu and smoked tempeh with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, onions, tomatoes, and pickles. I truly don't know how they get their tofu to have such a unique texture so reminiscent of meat. My best guess is that they marinate tofu pieces and then freeze them, giving a tougher texture. Maybe their cookbook will tell us all about it.
For dinner we packed away two wraps, The Sweet Jamaican and D's BBQ Joint. It probably wasn't our best idea to shove these in a backpack that gets tossed around in security lines and shoved under seats-- by the time we went to eat them, they were pretty mangled. But, they still tasted good.
The Jamaican had nicely spiced tofu and yams, as well as grilled onions and lettuce and tomato. The BBQ was stuffed with smoked tofu and seitan, as well as grilled mushrooms, onions, and potatoes. Both were wrapped in thick lavash bread.
Both Plum restaurants were delicious and unique in their own way. If you're visiting Seattle, I think Plum Bistro is a must and Plum Cafe is an if-you-can-swing-it, especially since Seattle is just flush with amazing vegan restaurants.